Pescatarian Protein: AKA The white stuff on salmon and other fish

Along with shrimp, salmon is one of the most popular seafoods around. With so many people cooking more from home these days, it is bound to appear on the lunch or dinner menu at some point as part of a pescatarian meal. 

Albumin on cultivated salmon

Whether cultivated or wild, baked or grilled you will run into the issue of albumin– the funky looking white stuff that appears on fish when cooked.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not fat, rather a simple protein that is most evident on salmon and some white fish like halibut. It’s called albumin and regardless of how your fish is prepared – broiled, baked or barbecued, this harmless, curd-like substance can appear at any time.

According to Donald Kramer of the University of Alaska’s Seafood Science Department albumin lives in fish in liquid form and appears when the muscle fibers are heated and they contract, pushing out the white-colored protein.

Why does it appear?

Some cooks believe that albumin only appears when fish is cooked fast and hot, but my experience proves that it appears haphazardly and can’t be predicted. Every fish is unique, so the amount of albumin released in each fish varies

Tips for reducing albumin

Although perfectly safe to eat, albumin can be viewed as unsightly for some cooks. There are a few good options to help reduce or eliminate the appearance of albumin; 

  • Cook as usual then use a moist paper towel to blot away the protein followed up by a little detailed work using the pointed end of a chop stick.
  • Garnish the cooked fish beautifully to hide the protein and carry on!
  • Quickly brine your fish prior to cooking which will help break down the protein.

Brining is my favorite method. A quick soak in a blend of sea salt and water – 1 tablespoon per cup of water – will help relax and dissolve the muscle fibers and help minimize the appearance of albumin.

Originally used to preserve food, brining is now a common technique used for meat – think Thanksgiving turkey – but rarely use with fish. Bathing the fish in salted water changes the texture and adds flavor. Beyond salt, whole peppercorns, herbs and citrus help impart character. 

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I’m Stephanie Harris-Uyidi, affectionately known as The Posh Pescatarian. I’m a sustainable seafood enthusiast and love sharing recipes, education, and tips for making incredible pescatarian meals. I am an industry expert and an authoritative voice on the pescatarian lifestyle. When I’m not working on new recipes in my lab (AKA: my kitchen!) I enjoy traveling and learning about people, places and culture through food, ingredients, and cooking techniques. I share some of my experiences on my TV show Appetite for Adventure!



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